Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale (2007)

This would be my first Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barelywine. This is the 2007 version, released earlier this year. Barleywine is a style I stayed away from when I first entered beer geekdom (late 2004). I had gone to a Stone tasting at a local liquor store and after that hop assault to a then-newbie I decided I would try to pick up the barleywines at a later time. Earlier this year I actually had my first, going back to Stone Old Guardian, and I thought it was really good.

The Bigfoot Ale was exactly what I expected it to be, based on what I had heard about it. This thing is hoppy. Very floral hoppiness to it, and there's tons of malt in there that initially gives off quite a lot of sweetness. As you get further and further into it the hops just keeping hitting you and seem to take over any of the sweetness you got from the malt. The bitterness is pretty heavy and leaves the back of the tongue and throat tingling. I expected a really soupy sort of beer, but I was actually pleased that this was no more viscous than about medium, maybe medium-heavy. I tend to not like really viscous hoppy beers (like some double IPAs) so that was a big score for this beer in my book. This still isn't a style I can drink all the time, but I imagine this was a pretty good representation of the style.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What I'm Drinking Tonight

Deschutes Jubelale. This is the 2007 version. Last year was the first opportunity I had to have this beer from a brewery I very much like and I enjoyed it very much. Somehow this year's version just didn't seem to impress me the way last year's did. That version I remember as more fruity, toasty and/or roasty, and a bit of berries in there as it warmed up. The 2007 version is largely toasty malt on a much thinner than anticipated body. Supposedly generously hopped though I didn't get that sense, other than it did balance it out a bit, but nothing extraordinary. Not a bad tasting beer, but a seasonal "Winter warmer?"

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Port Brewing/Lost Abbey Older Viscosity Release

My sister and I drove down to San Marcos Saturday to meet a friend of ours in from Florida and do a little beer drinking centered around the release of a few beers from Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey. The feature beer was Older Viscosity, a bourbon barrel aged version of the strong ale Old Viscosity. The other beers to be released were Gift of the Magi, a unique Biere de Garde using ingredients such as bark of Frankincense, Myrrh, and brettanomyces, and Santa's Little Helper, a Russian Imperial Stout. By the time we got there we joined a small line of about 25 people as we put our orders in. While waiting I had a taster of Santa's Little Helper which was fantastic, especially since it was my breakfast. As the line kept moving so did the tasters. Gift of the Magi was also on tap, so I tried that. It was a very complex beer that one would need more than a 4 oz taster of to be able to describe well.

We purchased our beers and headed over to Stone to get some food. The tap list at Stone was pretty good this day (when isn't it?), and it took no hesitation for me to order a 2004 Stone Imperial Russian Stout when I saw it was on the list. Compared to the 2005 and 2006 aged versions I've tried recently, this one was probably the best. The chocolate and roast had really melded nicely to create an incredibly rich and smooth drinking experience. The other new beer I tried was Anderson Valley's Brother David's Tripel. Not really the best interpretation of a tripel I've tasted but a good beer nonetheless. As we were leaving I picked up a growler of Stone Ruination for the USC game against the bRUINS next week. I'm hoping we will indeed "ruin" them.

Sage guilted me into returning to The Lost Abbey after Stone (even though I "needed" to get home to study) because he said they had a special keg of Older Viscosity on (I'm sure it will cost me a few points on my infectious disease midterm, but that's worth it). I must thank him for that because it was my first REAL taste of the Older Viscosity and it was awesome (way better than I remember it during the barrel tasting, but then again that had been after like 12 other beers). Older had some deep chocolate, tons of oak, and heat. It was a super rich beer that went down incredibly smooth. Probably the best "sipping" type beer I've experienced.

That pretty much did my day in right there. How I even tried to study for an hour or two at night baffles me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Some Lost Abbey Avant Garde....

Thanksgiving Morning

So after our annual football game, and annual post-game slurpee from 7-11, I came home and fixed myself a quick scrambled eggs and toast breakfast. And what better to go with it than a Founders Breakfast Stout. I'll cut right to the chase and say that this was an amazing stout. The coffee, the chocolate, the roasted malt all comes together so nicely, and for a pretty viscous 8.3% double stout it is very easy to drink down.

Though there's no dating info on it, I'm guessing this was bottled last fall, since I obtained it in a trade this summer. The aroma is more tilted to the chocolate and roast side, whereas the taste gives you all that plus a ton of coffee. At the start you really feel that coffee but as the glass wears on the roasted malt and chocolate assert themselves some more. Again, so drinkable, and I actually had to slow myself down a couple times otherwise this might have been gone before I finished breakfast. It has to be up there in my top 10 beers.

(Breakfast. Hey that's the best I can do, but more important is the beverage)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve, the start of a Mini-Beer-A-Thon

If it's not a recognized holiday it should be. It marks the start of a 4 day vacation for me. That of course means we can get to heavy beer drinking, which sounds fun since I haven't touched a beer in about a week.

I started off the night at home with a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale that I purchased earlier in the day. This would be about the 3rd vintage of this stuff I've ever had and it's always one of the most beautiful beers I pour. Plus, if the label art of this beer doesn't get you in the mood I don't know what will. Of course, there are not that many holiday IPA's out there (I can only think of Winter Yulesmith), but just seeing the clear orange it pours with a big fluffy and rocky head makes my mouth water in the Winter. As far as this years' version goes, you know from the aroma you're gonna get a lot of pine, but it smells like sweet pine. It comes across the palate as pretty sweet with nice and fresh piny hops also. After that the bitterness really coats the mouth and you get quite a piny experience the rest of the way. Off the top of my head I'm going to say I liked last year's better, but this is pretty tasty anyway and I wont have any trouble finishing off the rest of the 6-pack.

A bit later a few of us guys then went out to the new TAPS Fish House & Brewery that opened up in Corona (there has been one in Brea for a long time). TAPS makes some great beers, and has won numerous medals. Most recently they came home from the GABF with a silver and bronze for their Russian Imperial Stout and Cream Ale, respectively. Unfortunately, they usually only have 5-8 beers of theirs on tap, and last night in Corona they only had their Pale Ale, Cream Ale, Porter, Irish Red, and Hefe, and nothing on cask like they normally do. None of these beers really got me excited (I really wanted to try their Pumpkin Ale which I hear people rave about), but I had a Hefeweizen anyway. It's a Bavarian style hefeweizen which was ok (maybe it's really good, it's just not my favorite style). LOTS of wheat taste to it and quite a bit of cloves too, with just a touch of banana. After that my beer night was over, we went to a casino and everyone won money except me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Thanksgiving and Beer Ideas

I haven't really gotten much into food and beer pairings until this last year, especially after reading The Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver. Since Thanksgiving dinner is one of the more popular occasions in our country why not get serious about pairing some beer with it for the first time? I have so much beer here at home I'm gonna do this with what I have laying around.

This Thanksgiving is going to be a long day for me. In the early morning my friends and I traditionally hit the local park to relive our high school (and college for some) football glory days (in 1999 we finished ranked #13 in the state of CA!). After the game at about 10am we are exhausted and grab a slurpee from 7-11. This year I plan to head back home and fix a quick breakfast and have a Founders Breakfast Stout with it, strictly for replenishment purposes of course. Hey, I only have one bottle of it so I wanna do it the right way... for breakfast. After that I can say with about 99.9% certainty that I will fall asleep for a while.

Dinner this year will most likely be centered around the start of the USC/ASU game at 5pm that we will be at home to watch. To go along with some cheese and cracker appetizers I think it will be a Saison Dupont. I don't know much about cheese but Beer Advocate tells me to pair that with some earthy or pungent cheeses including Camembert, Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Limburger. Maybe I'll go out and try to pick one of these up. Usually around our house we just have some sort of cheddar or Parmesan. For actual dinner I'll try a couple of biere de gardes- Lost Abbey Avant Garde and St. Amand French Country Ale.

For a digestif either a Cuvee de Tomme or New Glarus Raspberry Tart.

We'll see if I can really stick to this regimen. But at least I'll give it my best try. I'm interested to hear what other type of specific pairings people are planning on.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Telegraph Popping Up Around LA

Telegraph, the small brewery out of Santa Barbara, CA, is one I don't hear about too often. They have a couple bottled offerings but after a short search this last Summer I learned the closest place for me to buy them was about 3 hours north. After that I pretty much forgot about them until I saw their California Ale appear on tap at Father's Office in Santa Monica. I made the poor choice of ordering that after a Pliny the Elder, but I saw enough in it to want to give it another go eventually.

In addition to this, I saw the Telegraph Stock Porter on tap at Lucky Baldwin's last night and ordered a glass. I wish I had known the details about this beer at the time because it has some interesting properties. What they do is blend two batches of beer to make this porter. One batch is higher alcohol and barrel-aged in American Oak while the other is lower alcohol and not barrel-aged. What I've also unofficially found out is that they use a Belgian yeast strain to ferment this porter (though it is quite obvious in the smell and taste). The beer came to me dark brown in a Piraat tulip and had a huge tan rocky head on it. The smell screamed out Belgian yeast all the way. The taste was very similar to some Belgian strong dark ales I've had. Earthy, spicy, roasty. It was quite a challenge to the brain, with the name trying to convince you it's a porter while everything else about it argued a dark Belgian ale. Well, you gotta hand it to them for producing not only something you don't see often (or at all?) but making it pretty good to boot. That glass wasn't bad, but now I'll really be looking forward to getting back to the California Ale, which I had also seen on the menu at Lucky Baldwin's.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Much Anticipated Lost Abbey Angel's Share

The much anticipated release of this year's Angel's Share happened Saturday morning and I had to be down at the brewery to get a few bottles. Believe me when I say I understand how high in demand this beer is. In the last 6 months or so I've seen many people all over the country looking for bottles from the previous release. I had an opportunity in August at the Lost Abbey's First Annual Barrel Tasting to try this batch and I know it gave me a fairly good impression (it was the last beer in a long line of beers that night). In fact, if I had liked the barrel-aged version that night, I had loved the non-barrel-aged version they served alongside it. So anyway, although I'm not the biggest fan of whiskey, bourbon, scotch, or brandy, I'm pretty surprised I've liked as many of these new barrel-aged beers that are coming out (especially ones that are aged in used bourbon or brandy barrels). Taking this into account, I just had to grab some bottles of this to really sit down with.

It took about 11 hours before I called a couple friends over to share a bottle. Some vitals to note, 11.5% ABV, with "copious amounts of dark caramel malt to emphasize the vanilla and oak flavors found in freshly emptied oak barrels." You can see the pour in the picture. The aroma contained a lot of oak, a little fruit, a little sugar all intertwined with that big alcohol content. The taste confirmed that this indeed was a heavily oaky beer. You get a real oak-alcohol-molasses combination finishing with just the slightest sweetness of sugar at the end. For my tastes, this combination of flavors isn't what I'm use to liking, as was previously stated. With that in mind I finished my glass and poured another. For what this beer is, it sure does it well, and being beer enthusiasts I think we have to keep that in mind, even if you don't particularly like a style. I couldn't drink this every day, I probably couldn't drink it every week, but the two small glasses I had proved to me that this is a pretty darn good strong barrel-aged ale.

Birthday Goodies & A Day of Fun

Yesterday I took the entire day off of studying to revel in the fact that I've made it another year. I rarely make a birthday list or give people ideas of what present they should buy me, mainly because I hate asking for things but also because it takes away the element of surprise. So as my family has really picked up onto my beer hobby, I had a suspicion of what most of them would get me.

I got up in the morning and had my friend Steve come pick me up around 8am so we could get down to The Lost Abbey by 9:30 and get in line to pick up some Angel's Share. We also picked up another friend, Pete, along the way so we could get a few extra bottles (6 per person). We got in and out, the ordering process was very organized, and we were headed to Stone by 10:30. Once at Stone we ordered some food and I had a Monk's Cafe Flemmish Sour Red Ale and then a Pizza Port Carlsbad fresh hop IPA I think it was. The Monk's Cafe was pretty good. I've really developed a love for sour beers, though the particular style of Oud Bruin I had not yet touched. It was not so high on the acidic side, but contained a nice tartness to it that was combined with a big malt presence and grape. I found myself drinking this really fast and enjoyed it though I wouldn't say it was interesting enough to want to drink all the time (I gave it a 3.9 on BA).

As far as beer presents went, my little sister decided to walk through the beer isles at Beverages & More, knowing as little about beer as one can know. She said she knew "I liked ales," and that she made her selections based on how cool the bottles or labels looked (she also knows I like Stone since I took her and the family there this summer). Well she went 4 for 4 on making great decisions. She picked out an '07 Double Bastard, Stone Pale Ale, Alesmith IPA, and Alesmith Horny Devil. My parents grabbed a few for me as well. Lost Abbey Avant Garde, Samichlaus, Stone 11th anniversary (they didn't know I already bought a bunch), and St. Amand French Country Ale which I'm excited to try. I also got a bunch of BevMo and Stone World Bistro gift certificates. And I can't forget that a week ago my buddy Brian got me two Lost Abbey Red Barn's, a St. Bernardus Abt 12, and an Alesmith Speedway Stout. It was definitely a very nice beer-oriented birthday.

Later in the evening I enjoyed a Red Barn as I watched the USC/Cal game and then had a couple friends over to enjoy an Angel's Share in celebration of USC's 24-17 victory. I will give The Angel's Share its own entry :-)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Upcoming Stuff

Another final bites the dust as we just finished our endocrine therapeutics module and prepare for what should be the worst class to come; infectious disease. However, I have a whole 9 or so hours tonight before I have to start worrying about that. I'll probably be celebrating the end of another class with a Judgment Day or Speedway Stout, or maybe both while I watch the MNF game.

Not too much on the schedule in the near future, but we have tentative plans of making another trip up to Russian River in mid-December.

This weekend being my birthday (I'm not big on my birthday, I hate celebrating it actually), gives me a good excuse to treat myself and head down to The Lost Abbey in the morning to pick up some Angel's Share and hopefully Older Viscosity. With the USC vs. Cal game later in the day it might not leave enough time to study, but I guess we'll see.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My First and Last Weihenstephaner Festbier

In the last few months I've heard some pretty good things about Brauerei Weihenstephan out of Germany. I passed up some of their regular stuff, most notably their hefeweizen, and went with their seasonal festbier. Nowhere on this bottle does it say "oktoberfest" or "marzen" so I am not holding it to those guidelines. However, I was disappointed with this beer anyway. In a nutshell this is a light bodied lager (with fairly generous alcohol of 5.8%) that I just couldn't figure out what they were trying to do with. Is it suppose to be light and quenching like your "typical" lager, or is it suppose to have a little something extra unique for the season? It seemed like it wanted a little bit of sweetness to come through it but it was very hard to tell through the pale malt & alcohol sharpness. If I'm in the mood for a light lager, I would reach for this. If I'm in the mood for a fall seasonal- something supposedly brewed along the lines of the whole Oktoberfest type tradition, I wouldn't go for this again. 3.05/5 on BA.